Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a gentle, hands-on treatment method pioneered and developed by osteopathic physician John E. Upledger. CST builds on the works of another osteopathic physician, Dr. William Garner Sutherland (1873-1954), who pioneered cranial osteopathic treatment. I’ll spare you the history lesson, but it is a good one...
Craniosacral Therapy (CST) has many benefits and is utilized for infants to elderly. It can help address:
- Post-concussion syndrome
- Headache, migraine pain
- Chronic pain
- Jaw pain or Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD)
- Vestibular issues like vertigo
- Sinus infection
- Face injuries
- Pre-and post-pregnancy issues
- Neck pain (i.e. whiplash)
- Spinal conditions
- Digestive issues like IBS, constipation, diarrhea
- Mood disorders
- And More
How does Craniosacral Therapy work?
CST involves evaluation and treatment of the skull and pelvis (more specifically, the sacrum). Further, this involves the flow of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), and the dura membrane layers that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.
CSF is continuously produced in the brain, mainly in the lateral ventricles. It has continuous flow throughout the entire craniosacral system.
It acts like a tidal wave washing over and protecting the brain and spinal cord, flowing down towards the sacrum. It acts like a hydraulic system to regulate the pressure of the fluids on the brain. CSF flows in cycles of 6-10x a minute. Each wave can be perceived by the hands.
The craniosacral system is a delicate one. The dura membranes are in reciprocal tension. They surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. They have highly important anatomical connections. With any restriction or loss of mobility within the membranes, or fluid disruption, negative changes can occur. This can lead to a myriad of symptoms that affects not only the craniosacral system but a negative cascade effect on other systems in the body.
What does craniosacral Therapy feel like?
CST is just one of the methods that may be used during a treatment session.
You will be asked to lie on your back on the treatment table. The therapist will evaluate the craniosacral rhythm by gently resting the hands on the sacrum and the skull. This is a very gentle treatment technique.
The therapist can sense the nature of the rhythm and get a sense of the energy that the patient is giving off. It is important to note that sometimes, a patient is not ready to have these areas treated right away. You may not know it, but the energy that a patient gives off acts as an invitation as to whether the therapist can begin to rest their hands. The therapist can feel the mobility of the cranial bones and mobilize them and sink further to address the dura membranes and CSF flow.
To the therapist, the flow of the CSF feels like expansion and retraction, think of Ernie and Bert’s heads respectively but without the skull changing shape. Wouldn’t that be weird if it did?! The therapist can pick up the subtleties within the system which can direct the course of treatment.
The goal of CST is simply to evaluate and guide the system towards balance. This is reached though the physical dialogue in which the craniosacral system reveals its hidden information. This can direct the therapist as to where the restrictions are. The therapist uses a hierarchy when treating these restrictions to improve the positive effects. Treatment involves using the health of body as leverage, an influence of sorts, against the restricted areas to promote positive change.
Positive change occurs with the onset of a “still point”. A still point is a natural pause in the craniosacral rhythm (lasting seconds to a few minutes), where the waves optimize, and relaxation occurs. Once the still point has passed, the therapist can release the hold, but still stays present to account for the subtle changes and the return of the craniosacral rhythm. Numerous still points can be felt during a session. Still points can be felt in various areas of the body. Achieving these points in a treatment can help improve relaxation and decrease sympathetic tone to allow the therapist better access to treating the rest of the body.